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Brookfield Place Is Truly Designed for the Financial District Resident

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The Financial District took a giant step forward in looking less like a construction zone and more like its own city-within-a-city with this morning's opening of Brookfield Place, the neighborhood's high-end shopping complex directly across from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. But while stores like Tory Burch, Vince, Diane von Furstenberg, and Omega are now here and open to the public, Brookfield Place is still a bit inaccessible—in more ways than one.

First, physically getting to Brookfield Place poses somewhat of a challenge. It sits across the heavily-trafficked, multi-lane West Street, and several of the crosswalks directly across from the glassy entrance to the Winter Garden. Once you walk from the subways and parse through One World Trade Center gawkers, the most apparent entrance is much further south—enter an adjacent office building on Liberty Street and use their overpass to continue down an under-construction hallway to make your way to the shops.

And second, the stores here—15 of the 25 confirmed brands opened their doors today, with the majority of those remaining arriving in the spring and summer, and Saks Fifth Avenue arriving in 2016—are not your typical mall stores. Brookfield Place has always positioned itself as the Financial District's luxury shopping destination (while Westfield World Trade Center, scheduled to open later this year, will offer a mix of price points), which has left many pondering who exactly will be shopping there.

Will tourists be able to find it? Will residents choose to shop downtown when most of these labels already have a presence (or several) further north on the island? As it turns out, retailers don't need to look any further but up at the tall office buildings around them: Brookfield Place is for the Fidi office worker, through and through.

The shops are roughly divided into two sections, one of which looks quintessentially mall—albeit a very, very fancy mall. Gray concrete floors are pervasive throughout the stores and the bi-level, open-air plaza, and perhaps it looked even grayer because it was an overcast, rainy day. The entrance from the Winter Garden is flanked by Theory and Michael Kors; Diane von Furstenberg, Paul Smith, Vince, J. Crew, and Lululemon are also on this floor.

The highlight here was certainly DVF, whose cheery merchandise, hot pink furniture, and back room dedicated to the wrap dress offset the plaza's somber color palette. Lululemon had yet to officially open—black curtains blocked shoppers from entering the doors, but a view from the second floor looks as if the store just needs to be stocked with merchandise.

Theory and the Michael Kors accessories stores were largely empty this morning; shoppers seemed to gravitate most toward J. Crew, which had separate entrances for men's and women's apparel. The sheer amount of merchandise on the shelves and racks here were in stark contrast to the neat little piles found in Vince or Paul Smith.

On the second floor in this area is the independent Posman Books, high-end beauty shop Cos Bar, women's workwear by Judith & Charles, children's store Babesta, and a Bonobos Guideshop.

Maybe it was the Umami burgers and Arnold Palmers that Bonobos was serving, or maybe it was their half-and-half offerings of suiting and casual everyday-wear, but the Guideshop was the most popular destination for nearby office workers this morning. It's likely the latter, seeing how Bonobos perfectly suits (no pun intended) a large part of this neighborhood's 9-to-5 population.

Posman Books is also a welcome addition here, standing out from its corner spot with its signature lime-green paint. Along with popular titles and New York-centric books (like recipe books from Prune and Death & Co.), there's sections for children and travel and add-ons like notebooks and anti-Hallmark cards.

There's a few large empty spaces in here covered with Brookfield Place paraphernalia, so it's not clear whether stores aren't ready to open or if they're yet to be filled. It would appear to be the latter, since stores like Vilebrequin and Calypso St. Barth's have their branding splashed across their construction facades.

The second area of shops are concentrated around the Winter Garden, and most of them are still on the way. Omega was clearly visible next to food vendor Le District, but Tory Burch was almost tucked away from view behind Burberry's large facade. Other stores coming to this area are Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermes, and Ermenegildo Zegna, and they're all expected to open within the next few months.

Ferragamo will eventually bump up against the Theory store, but its plain white facade clearly demarcates the two price points available here—expensive and expensive. And if Tory Burch serves an example, these stores will much more clearly mirror their own brand rather than Brookfield Place (read: no hard concrete gray floors). Burch's shop was gilded and mirrored, albeit a bit crowded for the several merchandise categories available here: handbags, small leather goods, shoes, apparel, sunglasses, and makeup.

Of course, Brookfield Place's crown jewel, Saks Fifth Avenue, is still more than a year away—but its signage is already quite prominent next to Equinox and Satya Jewelry. Expect an equally large fanfare for its opening next spring.

After this morning's formal unveiling with executives Brookfield Properties CEO Ric Clark and Edward Hogan concluded and members of the media dispersed, the shopping center's target audience started trickling in. Young professionals in suits and ties snuck out of the office and took in the scene, as did mothers with strollers (okay, and the occasional confused tourist, too).

While Brookfield Place might not be the shopping destination it bills itself as for all of Manhattan, the stores will be more than buoyed by the hundreds of thousands of 9-to-5ers in the area daily and young families moving to the neighborhood's high rises in droves. It's just another step forward in the Financial District's self-sufficiency.

Brookfield Place New York

200 Vesey St, New York, NY 10281 (212) 417-7000